2 families file wrongful death suit following Palm Springs tour bus crash that killed 13

Just four days after a tour bus crash killed 13 people near Palm Springs, the families of two of the dead have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the bus company and its owner-driver who was among the fatalities.

Lawyers for the families of 63-year-old Gustavo Garcia and 50-year-old Tony Mia, both of Los Angeles, filed the lawsuit Thursday, Oct. 27, in Los Angeles Superior Court against Alhambra-based USA Holiday and the estate of 59-year-old Teodulo Elias Vides.

The 1996 MCI bus slammed into the back of a big-rig at 5:17 a.m. Sunday along westbound Interstate 10 about two miles east of Highway 62 between Whitewater and North Palm Springs. Traffic ahead of the bus had slowed, and the semi was only moving about 5 mph, the California Highway Patrol said.

Survivors included 31 bus passengers who were hurt.

The victims were on their way home to Los Angeles after spending the night at the Red Earth Casino in the Salton Sea-area town of Thermal.

Vides and his company were negligent, reckless and legally responsible for the accident and the carnage, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

“Such negligence,” says the lawsuit, “includes … failing to travel at a safe rate of speed, failing to reduce speed (near) a construction zone, failing to keep a proper lookout and apply the brakes when coming upon a parked or disabled vehicle, failing to follow proper safety procedures (for maintaining) the tires on the vehicle, operating a bus that is not equipped with seat belts or safety restraint systems for passengers, and all other acts or omissions.”

The tread on half of the eight bus tires were too worn to pass a safety inspection, federal crash investigators have determined. Had the bus undergone a recent inspection with tires in that condition, it could have been taken out of service, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener told a news conference.

However, the cause of the accident remains under investigation.

The investigation will include:

  •  Human factors, including the driver’s background, experience and licensing, and whether he was fatigued or had been drinking.
  •  Highway factors, including the roadway configuration, the traffic flow, lighting and signage.
  •  Vehicle factors, including the pre-crash condition of the bus and whether it was safe to drive.
  •  Motor carrier factors, including whether USA Holiday was operating legally, and if the bus had any onboard data-recording device.

CHP officials reported there were no skid marks on the road to indicate a sudden brake application by the bus prior to the collision.

USA Holiday is a small tour bus company operating out of the owner’s Alhambra apartment company that primarily provided casino trips.

Efforts to reach the company and Vides’ family for comment were not successful.

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